Just in time for Father’s Day, here’s an excerpt from my best-selling book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide. (Which would make a great gift for yourself or any of the dads in your life!) This excerpt is all about how using time chunks can help keep us focused on family time and free up our mental energy to get the most out of it. It also references Harry Potter. Enjoy!
Regularly Scheduled Time Chunks of Unstructured Activity
A few hours dedicated to a single father-kid activity is better than several distracted twenty minute snippets scattered throughout the day.
When I first started writing this book, for example, Nick would often ask me to play. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I’d set aside my laptop and join him for ten minutes of Wii LEGO Harry Potter. Then, I’d go back to my writing. Invariably, he’d be back asking me to play a half-hour later, and we’d repeat the cycle.
However, this was actually a poor pattern. Nick was unsatisfied with the small scraps of my time and attention, and I was constantly interrupted from my task. I was shredding my time chunks into “time confetti” (both terms from Brigid Schulte’s awesome book, Overwhelmed). The sporadic ten minutes of play time wasn’t satisfying for Nick and wasn’t doing me much good. This leads to a third Schulte-ism: “Contaminated time.” One of the reasons my ten minutes of play were unsatisfying is that my interrupted writing was still on my mind. My attention wasn’t focused on Nick or on using the Patronas spell against the Dementors; it was split between Nick and all the work I still had to do.
Time chunks to the rescue! So here’s how I adjusted: Nick and I set a time the next few nights when I would stop writing and join him to complete two levels of the Harry Potter game. This usually took about 45 minutes, and represented a satisfying, completed task. I stayed focused on the game until we completed the levels, knowing I had just spent a productive time chunk writing, and had another one waiting for me later that night. As a result, our playtime was less contaminated by thoughts of work. I had more fun with Nick (and he with me), and by the end of the night, I got more accomplished. Bedtime hugs became debriefs of the levels we completed and “Easter eggs’ we uncovered.
What do you thin about time chunks? Have any stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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